Rogue One Redeems Star Wars From Jar Jar Binks. ✩✩✩ of ✩

George Lucas was a sub-par writer who liked to make movies so he could play with them. But he gave us Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi then kept tinkering with them never recognizing he had given us something. He wanted to keep it as his and just let us gaze for a fleeting moment before he changed it and screwed it up.

To this day we have never had the three original movies Lucas always promised. There was some CGI crap he passed off, but that stuff just sucked our souls dry as he raided our pockets in a giant con.

Rogue One finally makes good on the promise of the second line in the scroll of “A New Hope” where it says “Episode IV”. Rogue One makes for a third episode. If only Disney would finally make the first two. I’d love to see how Darth Vader came to be. But alas . . .

Truth be told, the first two-thirds of Rogue One is kind of meh. It is good, but it could be better. It was more a series of scenes and vignettes stitched together to build an overarching narrative. It works, but you can see the stitching. Then you get to the third act.

I just paused after writing that last sentence. I paused for about twenty second and just breathed deeply. And then again after writing those last two sentences.

I’m not going to say I cried, but that was a hell of an emotional roller coaster for a Star Wars fan. It was the return of the Western that Lucas originally envisioned. My friend Ben Domenech wrote a review the other day and noted that there were a few characters out of many you wound up caring about. As it happened, without giving anything away, a pilot of an X-wing fighter dies on a planet and he was apparently a significant character. I had to google it. (Ben, by the way, is both a vastly better writer and a vastly better movie reviewer. You really need to read his review here.)

But then there was the robot. Go see it. You’ll know. And the blind guy. Just wow. Bad people thrived. Good people died. There was no hope and there was hope.

Disney has rescued my childhood from the whims of George Lucas and I thank them.

The movie is not perfect. I was going to check my kids out of school tomorrow to go see it, but I think it would be too intense for my eight year old. I think we’re going to have to wait to watch it at home on iTunes next year.

The movie has many flaws and at times seems rushed. The music is not memorable for the most part. But the lack of CGI for actual models is fantastic. There is one scene where a star destroyer shows up on scene and the detail — the nooks and crannies of it — just shows how much they cared.

Then there was the CGI. Two characters in particular were CGI characters and the one was way in the uncanny valley. My first thought, in seeing the back of his head, was that they’d done a masterful detailed job finding someone who was this guy’s shape, with the same bald pattern, same hair, and same voice. Then he turned around and I thought they’d done an amazing job fitting someone with prosthetics to look just like him, an actor long dead. But suddenly I realized the character was CGI. He looked vastly more real than the final CGI character to show up.

But both were welcome additions tying Rogue One into A New Hope in ways I never, ever expected. The movie ends mere minutes before A New Hope begins. That was an impressive feat and one that caused the audience in the theater to collectively gasp as they realized it. I’m serious about that. There was an audible intake of air when you realized all of a sudden where you were.

Vader, at the end, was deadlier than we have ever seen him. The one thing I wish they had not done was use James Earl Jones. They did. They brought him back to do Vader’s voice. But it wasn’t the Vader of Star Wars. It was old James Earl Jones trying to do late 1970’s Vader. It was actually off putting. When Vader did not speak though, he was terrifying and efficient.

I could spend the next hour writing about this movie. I would give away spoilers and I don’t want to. I will say this — C-3PO and R2-D2 make a cameo, but the more I think about it, their appearance screws up the timeline in the movie. How could they go from there to where we first see them in A New Hope? Several lingering questions from Star Wars are answered. Most of all the Force is felt.

The Force was truly with Disney in making this movie. It had a lot of hiccups and edits and revisions. That last third makes up for all the flaws in the first two-thirds. You need to go see this movie.

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Erick Erickson

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